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Estate planning for same-sex couples in Colorado

This month, the Supreme Court will issue a landmark decision on the legality of same-sex marriage. Surprisingly, a Boulder city clerk issued the first same-sex marriage in 1975. A PBS documentary called “Limited Partnership” recounts the couple’s story and a strange twist that the federal judge who ruled on the legitimacy of their marriage for immigration purposes was Anthony Kennedy – now the swing vote on the nation’s highest court.

Even with that first marriage license issued in 1975, same-sex marriage did not become legal in Colorado until last October. How did this affect estate planning? More protections are available. Marriage is a major life event and after tying the knot, it is important for LGBT couples to speak with an attorney to create a comprehensive estate plan.

Four key protections that marriage offers

For legally married LGBT couples, some of the major changes include:

  • Marital deduction – The Internal Revenue Service used to treat a same-sex couple as two single people, but now same-sex married individuals can give assets to their spouse without paying gift tax
  • Portability clause – This allows a legally married LGBT couple to transfer any unused portion of the estate-tax exclusion (currently $5.34 million) to a surviving spouse. For example, if Carrie died and used $2 million of her exclusion, Allison could port the remaining $3.34 million to pass assets to heirs tax free.
  • Gift splitting – A legally married same sex couple can now combine their yearly tax free gift allowance ($14,000) to give $28,000 without writing separate checks.
  • Retirement accounts rollover rights – LGBT spouses now receive equal protection to rollover an IRA after the loss of a spouse.

Even with these changes, it is important to have the right estate planning documents in place. This might include a will and trust as well as a living will, financial power of attorney and advance medical directives.

Source: Forbes, “Estate Planning Advice For LGBT Couples,” Holly Hanson, June 10, 2015

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